From Belgium to England to Ohio, on-line printing and labeling technologies are serving packagers in different ways.

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Ohio, U.S.A: Integrating Social Media with customized packaging

Labeling, coding and marking systems are adapting to meet rapidly changing trends and requirements. One of those trends is for Social Media, and another is in personalization of packaging. A new program by Shearer’s Snacks, Brewster, OH, combines both trends in a unique marketing program made possible through real-time printing on the packaging line using a hybrid method that uses several technologies in a new way.

Shearer’s Foods latest promotional effort stretches across the packager’s branded and private label brands to offer consumers the opportunity to win season tickets to The Ohio State University basketball games. This new program follows on the heels of a program for OSU season football tickets that used preprinted, scratch-off labels that were applied randomly by driver sales personnel ahead of store delivery. This time Shearer’s selectedFASTechnology Group’s( method, which is done on-line during packaging to solve some of the shortcomings of the previous “prepackaged” promotion. FastTechnology’s business model encompasses “Retail-Ready Personalized Packaging” (RRPP) systems developed from print-on-demand processes used in the commercial printing industry. RRPP enables the production and marketing of products customized to store-level or to shopper-level, while eliminating the need for costly packaging line changeovers.

For this latest iteration, potentially winning codes are printed by FASTechonology on-demand during bagging and are embedded underneath the real-time-printed scratch-off labels. 

On-site customization at Shearer’s is possible using a custom, mobile system about 2 feet x 2 feet x 5 feet tall (shown) that rolls up to the bagger. The film web travels through the unit and exits to the infeed of the bagger. Onboard the FASTechnology system areVideojet Int’l ( thermal transfer printers to apply the variable promotional coding onto the film and Videojet labelers to apply the pressure-sensitive labels.  In Shearer’s application, the scratch-off labels have been specifically formulated for use with bagging machines so that they effectively make it through the bagger without peeling.

Cognex( machine vision systems onboard confirms that the right codes are applied properly to each bag and archived in a database. The winning codes are controlled by Shearer’s through online Facebook registration. 

FASTechnology president Joe Hattrup says Shearer’s OSU basketball promotion was planned and developed within a matter of weeks rather than the lengthy lead-time typically required using conventional methods.  “We’ve enabled Shearer’s to manage, control and execute their promotion to their exact specifications,” he says.  

Options include image printing and covert coding schemes by using either infrared or UV-visible inks for tracking purposes or serialization.

As seen in our sidebars, other examples, though more conventional, demonstrate the production value of modern on-packaging printing and marking machinery.

England: Coding for ‘food safe-tea’

Fairtrade tea manufacturer Clipper Tea in England has installed four more printers from coding and marking specialistLinx Printing Technologies(, bringing to eight the total number of Linx printers operated by Clipper.

Clipper says it chose the Linx 7300 Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printers due to their low cost, ease of use, minimized downtime and extensive features including a USB port/backup, which enables problem-free transfer of codes and printer settings between printers. 

The Linx printers are being used to print consumer-readable “Best Before End” dates, as well as food-safety-prompted traceability codes for internal use, onto boxes containing Clipper’s range of Fair Trade and organic tea bags. Linx Black fast-drying 1240 ink is used; the production line operates eight hours a day, five days a week for 50 weeks of the year.

Steve Norris, engineering and maintenance manager for Clipper at Beaminster, Dorset, says: “Reliability, cost and after-sales support were the biggest factors for choosing Linx again, when we were reviewing our current printer needs.”

Belgium: Ink-jet coder adds traceability, OEE gains

A continuous ink-jet (CIJ) printer is also proving a valuable asset for Belgian soft drinks producer EVIDEL, delivering 100% production uptime, maintenance-free push-button operation and increased output.

Located on the site of a natural spring near Gent in Belgium, EVIDEL Ginstbronnen has been bottling its famous Ginstberg-branded pure mineral water and soft drinks since 1897 using the finest flint-based crystal-clear glass to reflect the product purity. While the product quality has remained constant over the century, legislation surrounding the products’ bottling and identification has changed considerably.

“Legislation demands that we now have to code and identify every bottle we produce for future traceability,” explains Niko Claeys, assistant managing director at EVIDEL. 

To expand production to include 5-gallon polycarbonate water bottles, the company searched for an ink jet printer to increase production output and deliver tangible Overall Equipment Effectiveness benefits in a very challenging, high humidity bottling environment.

“We already had a Domino A300 integrated into our glass bottling line and coding onto the caps of our 1-Liter and 20-cL bottles, which had proved to be extremely reliable and required little maintenance over the years,” says Claeys. “But for this latest investment we were really looking for a technology that would allow us greater flexibility.”

In June 2011, EVIDEL transferred the A300 to a new PC line and installed Domino’s A320i, the very latest technology in its A-Series range of CIJ printers, on its glass bottling line. It enabled EVIDEL to increase production speeds.

“The A320i has really surpassed our expectations,” says Niko. “We have achieved a 5% increase in efficiency and also benefitted from 100% uptime on our bottling line.  The A320i has provided the ‘switch on/switch off’ solution we were looking for.”